What Is Pollarding: Tips On Pollarding A Tree

By: Teo Spengler

Pollard tree pruning is a method of trimming trees to control their mature size and shape, creating a uniform, ball-like canopy. The technique is often used on trees planted in an area where they cannot be allowed to grow to their full size. This might be because of other trees in the vicinity, or because the tree is planted in space-restricted by power lines, fencing, or some other impediment. Read on to learn more about pollarding a tree.

What is Pollarding?

What is pollarding and how do you do it? When you do pollard tree pruning, you cut off the central leader of the tree and all lateral branches to the same general height within a few feet of the tree crown. The height is at least 6 feet (2 m.) above the ground so that grazing animals do not eat new growth. You also remove any lower limbs on the tree and any crossing limbs. While the tree looks like a barren stick right after pollard tree trimming, the crown soon grows in.

Undertake pollard tree pruning while the tree is dormant, during the winter or early spring, January through March in most places. Always choose young trees for pollarding, since they regrow faster and better than older trees. They are also less susceptible to disease.

Pollarding vs. Topping

Topping a tree is a very bad practice likely to kill or severely weaken the tree. When you top a tree, you cut off the top section of the central trunk. This is usually done to a mature tree when a homeowner underestimates its mature size. Regrowth after topping is a problem. On the other hand, pollard tree pruning is always done on young trees, and regrowth is encouraged.

Trees Suitable for Pollarding

Not every tree will be a good candidate for pollard tree pruning. You’ll find very few conifer trees suitable for pollarding, other than the yew. Possible broadleaf trees suitable for pollarding include trees with vigorous regrowth like:

  • Willows
  • Beech
  • Oaks
  • Hornbeam
  • Lime
  • Chestnut

Tips for Pollarding a Tree

Once you start pollarding a tree, you must keep it up. How often you cut depends on the purpose you are pollarding.

  • If you are pollarding to reduce the size of the tree or in order to maintain a landscaping design, pollard every two years.
  • If you are pollarding to create a sustainable supply of firewood, undertake pollard tree pruning every five years.

If you fail to maintain the pollarded tree, the tree, as it grows back, develops heavy branches. It also suffers from overcrowding and diseases due to increased humidity.

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What trees can you Pollard?

Pollarding is a pruning system involving the removal of the upper branches of a tree, which promotes the growth of a dense head of foliage and branches. Traditionally, people pollarded trees for one of two reasons: for fodder to feed livestock or for wood.

Additionally, can you Pollard a mature beech tree? Pollarding can be used on many trees including the following: ash, lime, elm, oak, beech, poplar, eldar, london plane, fruit trees, eucalyptus and sweet chestnut. Trees may be pollarded as soon as they have reached the desired height and the form can then be chosen.

Besides, is pollarding bad for trees?

Pollarding vs. Topping a tree is a very bad practice likely to kill or severely weaken the tree. When you top a tree, you cut off the top section of the central trunk. Regrowth after topping is a problem. On the other hand, pollard tree pruning is always done on young trees, and regrowth is encouraged.

What is the difference between coppicing and pollarding?

Coppicing and pollarding The main difference between the terms is where the pruning is carried out. Trees and shrubs are coppiced at ground while pollarded plants are standard trees, cut close to their head on top of a clear stem.

Pollarding is a pruning technique which has been used for centuries. It is a process where the crown of the tree is removed and only the main tree trunk remains with a few short branches remain. There are a few trees which allow for pollarding, such as the Oaks (Quercus), Gum (Eucalyptus), Elder (Sambucus), Limes (Tilia x europaea), Eucalyptus, Mulberry (Morus), Ash (Franxinus), Elms (Ulmus), some Acer (A. negundo and its cultivars) species, Tulip tree (Liriodendron) and London Plane Trees (Platanus x hispanica). Even if you tree is not mentioned here, it doesn’t mean pollarding is not an option. Our Hull tree surgeons will check every tree on a case by case basis. We also offer crown shaping services which could also be suitable for your type of tree.

Why Pollard Trees

There are several reasons why pollarding is done such as:

  • To prevent trees from reaching a certain height
  • To prevent trees from damaging structures such as building or power cables
  • To reduce the amount of shade
  • Aesthetics
  • To promote lateral branch growth
  • An unhealthy tree which cannot pump water and nutrients to the canopy anymore. The stress reduction gives the tree another chance to survive.
  • In the past the technique was mainly used to quickly grow wood.

Pollarding should be performed on younger trees. They can grow back more easily than older trees. Once you start pollarding a tree you need to keep in mind that you must do it every few years. Branches should be pruned just above the previous cuts. The season to perform the service is mostly during the late winter or early spring, since it must be done when the tree is dormant, but it does depend on the type of the tree. Acer species for example should not be pruned in spring when they are prone to bleeding sap. Summer could then be a better option. Autumn should in general be avoided since decay fungi could enter the tree cuts from pruning.

Take this quick poll

Pollarding is best started on young trees, as young wood heals rapidly, reducing the risk of decay.

Pollarded linden trees in late winter look like bottle brushes.

These pollarded linden trees in Frederiksberg, Copenhagen, Denmark look like a bunch of bottle brushes in late winter. Trees were planted closer together and the crowns pruned to look more compact and uniform. There are also no long and heavy branches to break off and cause injury in case of gusty winds.

Linden trees in late spring - lollipops in the woods - compact and uniform.

By late spring, these bristly trees have transformed into green and verdant lollipops.The trees are uniform in height and shape, with enough space between the crowns, creating cool shades without overcrowding.

Pollarding creates uniform trees with identical heights and crowns.

Pollarded trees at Swan Pool, Sandwell Valley, England.

Pollarding kept tree branches off the ground level away from grazing animals, like deer and livestock.

The UK has a rich history of pollarding and has more ancient trees than any countries in Northern Europe. These trees were protected by a 1000-year old Forest Law enacted by William the Conqueror, to safeguard deer and wildboar and other animals for medieval hunting.

Pollarding trees kept the shoots 8-10 feet off the ground to keep grazing animals from eating them. For hundreds of years in Europe, pollarding guaranteed a yearly harvest of firewood and animal fodder. The resulting water sprouts would be cut off every year or two for use for basket weaving, broomsticks, and other crafts.

In 1834, six poverty-stricken farm laborers met under this sycamore pollard tree in the village of Tolpuddle, Dorset, UK, to demand that their slave wages of 6 shillings be increased to 10 shillings. The six men, known as the Tolpuddle Martyrs, formed The Friendly Society of Agricultural Labourers were tried and arrested for swearing a secret oath. They were deported to Australia for violating the Mutiny Act, and then pardoned and released in 1836, paving the way to the formation of the modern day trade unions.

The Tolpuddle sycamore tree is still alive today and has become a place of pilgrimage for many visitors.

Pollard trees were a source of inspiration for Vincent Van Gogh

At L&M Tree Services Ltd we offer a full, comprehensive range of services to fit your requirements.

Our approach is:
We listen carefully to your problems and can help you to choose the right pruning method to suit your needs. Our expert arboriculturalists at L&M Tree Services will guide you through your options and ensure we design a spec that whilst having the trees health at the forefront of our minds, will also meet your requirements.
0800 043 8209

Our range of pruning services consist of the following types below:

Formative Pruning

Formative pruning is usually carried out on young or newly planted trees. Often, trees straight out of the nursery stock hold several defects that if left un treated, will hamper they're mature adult life and may become a tree health issue resulting in a major, expensive procedure. By removing these hazards at a young age, this gives the tree a better chance of compartmentalising the wound and maturing into a healthy, large specimen. Several smaller wounds, are better than one large wound.

Case Study | Tree Pruning | Local School, Bristol

Formative Pruning - Example 2

Formative Pruning - Example 3

Formative Pruning - Example 4

Case Study | Fruit Trees

Formative Pruning

These fruit trees are located within a local school. After pruning, these little trees can mature with fewer defects and potential hazard branches. In this case, it allows better access for mowers and weed control.

Tree species: Apple Tree

Job Time: 1 days work

This is an example of a job that required crown thinning at a domestic property in North Bristol. Full site survey and saftey checks required for this job.

Work Required: 1 large Oak Tree

Job Time: 1 days work

This is an example of a job that required crown thinning at a domestic property in North Bristol. Full site survey and saftey checks required for this job.

Work Required: 1 large Oak Tree

Job Time: 1 days work

This is an example of a job that required crown thinning at a domestic property in North Bristol. Full site survey and saftey checks required for this job.

Work Required: 1 large Oak Tree

Job Time: 1 days work

Crown Reduction

Crown reduction alleviates biomechanical stress by reducing both the leverage and the sail area of the tree, and can allow retention of a tree in a confined space. It can also be used to create a desired appearance or to make the tree more suited to its surroundings. Unlike topping, it retains the main framework of the crown and therefore a high proportion of the foliage-bearing structure, which is importantfor the maintenance of vitality. Not all species or individual trees are appropriate candidates for reduction. (BS3998:2010)

Case Study | Crown Reduction | Willow Tree

Case Study | Crown Reduction | Beech Tree

Case Study | Crown Reduction | Veteran Oak Tree

Case Study | Crown Reduction | Poplar Tree

Case Study | Crown Reduction | Mulberry Tree

Case Study | Crown Reduction | Eucalyptus Tree

Case Study | Crown Reduction | Beech, Tulip and Sweet Chestnut

Case Study | Crown Reduction | Cedar Tree

Case Study | Willow Tree

This willow tree is located within a the grounds of a commercial premisses. It was becoming a problem for HGV’s, forcing them to use the wrong side of the road. We were contracted to reduce the tree as a whole to create balanced crown shape rather than removing isolated branches.

Work Required: 1 Willow Tree

Job Time: 1 days work

Case Study | Beech Tree

Reduce height of tree by up to 2 meters and reduce sides by unto 3 meters to balance canopy.

Unfortunately the tree had a number of weak unions at its base. We reduced the canopy to lessen the weight and wind loads on these unions to prevent stem failure.

Tree Species: Beech Tree (Fagus sylvatica)

Job Time: 1 days work

Case Study | Veteran Oak

This Veteran Oak tree is located within a private garden. Veteran trees require bespoke care to fulfil the needs of the tree. In this case, the tree has extensive decay in the main fork and the tree if left unmanaged will eventually split apart in half. To manage this and prolong the integrity of the tree we carried out a 10% tip prune all over with a further 10% to an isolated, ‘weakly’ attached limb. The aim is to promote more leaf cover in the lower canopy which in years to come will eventually form the ‘outer’ crown - with no stem failure.

Work Required: 1 large Oak Tree

Job Time: 1 days work

Case Study | Poplar Tree

Crown reduce tree by upto 3 meters

Our Client was concerned that this tree was becoming too big for the garden and was worried about its safety. After an initial consultation it was decided that we would reduce the tree sympathetically to obtain a nice shape but also keep the tree healthy and safe

Tree Species: White Poplar (Populus alba)

Job Time: 1 days work

Case Study | Mulberry Tree

This Mulberry tree is located within a private garden. The tree was getting too big for the garden and it was effecting the direct sunlight into the neighbouring garden. We carried out a Crown Reduction of unto 1.5m to reshape and manage the tree.

Tree Species: 1 Mulberry Tree

Job Time: 1 days work

Case Study | Eucalyptus

This Eucalyptus tree is located within a private garden. This tree had an 'compression fork' at the base of the 2 main stems. A 'compression fork' is created when 2 or more stems grow tightly together. They have a clear characteristic of a 'Y'. The top side of the union has a very steep angle and there is a visible ‘line’, often ribbed, running vertically down from the centre of the union. At this point, the stems have not usually bonded together and can push away from each other. The result can be one of the stems failing and splitting out.

In this instance, we reduce the height and width of the crown to reduce the weight & 'lever' effect acting on the union.

Tree Species: Eucalyptus Tree

Job Time: 1 days work

Case Study | Beech, Tulip & Sweet Chestnut

These 3 trees are located within a private garden. Due to the proximity of the property to these trees, the owner wants to manage the trees at their current height. We have been managing these trees since 2004 with pruning works being carried out every 4 yrs.

Tree Species: Beech, Tulip & Sweet Chestnut Trees

Job Time: Continuous Management, total of 4 years plus to date

On to North Bay - San Francisco, California - Music Concourse in Golden Gate Park

The pollard trees in sunny Golden Gate Park, San Francisco, California and the the pollard plane trees in the winter scene in Geneva, Switzerland below have the same signature clubbed and gnarled branches with upright water sprouts. The shoots will be pruned back to the original cuts so new growths will emerge in early Spring.

Plane trees (Platanus x acerifolia) or sycamore trees thrive well in urban soil and are the most widely pollarded and used in parks and along streets in temperate regions around the world. These vigorous plane trees are pollarded to keep them from outgrowing the allocated space, limiting the height and the size of the crowns, making them more wind-resistant.

Watch the video: PRUNING a large Ash tree how to prune big trees

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